Clever guide to color trends over the decades | Architectural Summary


“The muted tones represented a return to nature and a rejection of the synthetics of the 1950s and 1960s,” she further explains. “These hues are deeply comforting, which could be seen as a response to the recession, the oil crisis and the end of the Vietnam War. Additionally, more attention has been paid to the environmental movement, which makes sense given the more natural connotations of this palette. Brown is often linked to a sense of reliability and stability, while gold is associated with lighting and dark orange represents warmth.

The 1980s saw no neon or primal light that they didn’t wholeheartedly embrace.

Artwork by Sydney Hirsch

1980s: mostly bright

After hibernating in 1970s earth tones, we turned to brights and primaries to wake up to the 1980s. Cobalt blue, lacquer red and sunflower yellow dominated against white backgrounds, while neon pinks, teals and purples glowed in the dark, disguising any negativity with consumer-ready optimism.

“More than anything else, the 1980s saw a huge consumer boom, really driven by the onslaught of new TV shows,” says designer Sophie Collé. “Americans, in particular, are spending money like never before. We see bright colors creeping into television, sports programs and advertisements. We also see bright colors on television reflected in real life, and vice versa. I think bright colors can definitely be a shield against a lot of sad and scary things going on in the world! In general, design feeds on income inequality, and colorful or not, these trends have a way of hiding the real issues in society.

Smiling, sunny yellows characterized the 90s and 2000s.

Artwork by Sydney Hirsch

1990s and 2000s: And Everything Was Yellow

1990s and 2000s interior colors varied widely. Some of them opted for understated and relaxing neutrals, while others played unapologetically with bright and energetic hues. Yellow, in particular, was particularly emblematic of the sunny optimism and enthusiasm for the future that peaked at the start of the new millennium. Since then, people have been reluctant to paint their walls in such an assertive hue.


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